Jul 16, 2008 3:40pm
Re: Another history question: TMNSP
Betty herself explained what happened in THE DEADHEAD’S TAPING COMPENDIUM, vol. 2, where she's interviewd by the editor, ca. 1995. It seems that the GD establishment failed to pay her money that she felt she was owed, and she went into a financial free-fall:
Obviously we need to discuss “the Betty tapes.”
Betty Cantor: “Betty’s Boards.” I hear about them all the time. I wonder which ones they have. I say, “Let me hear them, I’ll tell you if they’re mine”
You know, it’s widely considered that the release of those tapes was the single most important event in the history of the recording and trading of Grateful Dead tapes.
Betty Cantor: Oh, gosh. Thank you! It’s great to know I’m appreciated on some level.
Let me tell you, it wasn’t just weird for you, it was weird for the people who were involved in actually buying and first transferring them. There’s some really heavy karma attached to those tapes.
Betty Cantor: That’s a real understatement as far as my life is concerned. So much of my life is totally intertwined in those tapes. I stop short of saying “defined by them.” There were years of tapes, many bands. I’d like to get my hands on some of those.
The release of those tapes made it possible for someone like myself, who spent years trying to get a handful of decent recordings, to all of a sudden be able to collect a huge number of pristine first-generation soundboard tapes without much of a hassle. For years, there was always this very clear split between people in the community who would withhold the crisp tapes and the people who would share this wonderful music openly. It was—still is, in fact—a huge power trip.
Betty Cantor: Yes, I’m into disseminating it, every time. If you ask me, I’ll tell you whatever I can.
The people who were disseminating the Betty Boards made it possible for the hierarchy to be destroyed between the haves and the have-nots.
Betty Cantor: Right. Oh, I love it! I love it! An instance for people to change; change is a wonderful thing.
In turn, it also exponentially increased the enjoyable factor of the Grateful Dead’s music because all of a sudden a neophyte could have an incredible collection of Grateful Dead music.
Betty Cantor: That’s so wonderful, that makes me feel so good! My work wasn’t altogether in vain.
That, in turn, then made many many more people get into tapes because the tapes were actually worth collecting. They didn’t sound like so many of the echoey audience recordings made forty rows back. So all of a sudden you could really have a great collection, and that in turn made the music and the experience of collecting tapes more attractive to other people, which, in turn, in sort of an odd way, made the Grateful Dead much more popular.
Betty Cantor: All right! Gratification!
So, no matter how weird that trip was for you...
Betty Cantor: I’m glad they got out there. It went past the bullshit, which is what I ran into all over the place with the boards. And it went past it; I always wanted to get past it. And it’s out there. We’ve overcome. The demon has been driven back. I love it. I think it’s great, it’s wonderful. It’s extremely rewarding for me to hear that, that it got out there and that somebody can appreciate it. And that some asshole someplace isn’t making a bunch of money on it; at least I hope that’s the case. Anyway, if some asshole is making money on them, it should be mine! [laughs] I’m glad people are getting to hear the music.
The interesting thing is that there are more of the Betty tapes still out there, still unreleased by whoever is holding them..
Betty Cantor: Oh, yeah?
Yes, they are hidden, and there’s only one person who knows where that guy is, and that guy has been trying to sell a road case filled with two hundred tapes to the bootleggers in Italy. They won’t buy it because he wants a million dollars.
Betty Cantor: Is that all?
That’s what he wants.
Betty Cantor: I wonder which ones he has, because there were so many Garcia Band tapes, there were years of Garcia Band rapes. Some of them were just amazing.
Yes, it’s largely the Garcia Band tapes.
Betty Cantor: Yeah, I would think it would have to be because those haven’t surfaced. Like the Grateful Dead ones, a lot of my Grateful Dead tapes are in the Grateful Dead Vault. I recorded the Garcia Band in all its forms over the years. He really got into gigging when the Grateful Dead stopped playing for a couple of years. I used to take my MX1Os [Ampex stereo mike mixers—4 inJ2 out), plug them all together and feed my Revox two- track (that’s before I got my Nagra). I always used my own split signal. I recorded Merl [Saunders] and Jerry’s Live at Keystone by renting my Alembic gear (I’d split with Alembic so I rented my old setup) and having Rex as my assistant. That was one of those projects that was supposed to net the basic track for one cut on their scheduled studio album. They liked the tapes well enough to put out a double live album, and since then Mccl and Fantasy Records have issued some, I think it’s three, more CDs from those tapes. I only recorded two nights on the multitrack; they must have used almost everything.
Right. And the Betty tapes of the Europe ‘72 tour aren’t out yet, except for one or two.
Betty Cantor: I think most of my Europe ‘72 tapes are in the Vault. In Europe I was doing the sixteen-track and simultaneously running a two-track of my monitor mix. I made cassettes at the same time, and I had been feeding these a few at a time to Bear while he was unavoidably detained. I spoke to him after he had been receiving the rapes for a while; he said he was wondering who had done the mixing; he didn’t think it was Bob because he liked the mixes; “they sound like my mixes,” he said. I got a laugh out of that. Anyway, they took my Europe ‘72 sixteen-track tapes, put out Hundred Year Hall, and called themselves producers! I was like, ‘‘What?! Wait a minute!”
Do you have any idea of what percentage of the Betty tapes were masters versus copies?
Betty Cantor: Oh, they were probably all masters. Pretty much. If they were in my handwriting and they said, “Nagra, 11083 . . .“ and stuff like that, you bet they’re mine. If they’re mine, they’re masters. That’s one concern I have regarding the playing back of these tapes; that Nagra tapes be played back on a Nagra. That’s particularly true of 15 ips tapes because they were recorded with the Nagra Master equalization curve. Just love that Nagra at 15 ips NM. That’s the best. They really should be played on a Nagra. My Nagra! Yeah, right.
When I interviewed Bear for this project, he told me he was really upset because there was no real conscious effort back then to archive the tapes because there was no serious perceived value to tapes.
Betty Cantor: Well, by that time we had gotten into that, we had evolved. I would make sure that everything got labeled and kept in order and kept together
When was this approximately?
Betty Cantor: Oh, we built the Vault when we got Front Street, about 1976. We started Cats Under the Stars not long after that. We built the Vault and started keeping everything in there. Prior to that, whenever I was recording, the tapes were marked and organized.
How did these tapes end up...
Betty Cantor: A large portion of my tapes were recorded at my own expense, probably most. I purchased or built my own equipment; my Nagra, the MX1O mixers, the Allen & Heath’s mixers I used late:; mikes and monitoring, etc., including my splitters and cabling. Well, I had been trying to get most of my personal gear out of the studio and taken home, including tapes. There were many, many tapes of numerous other bands I had recorded over the years in addition to Dead music. So I’d moved a lot of these tapes home when I was told I was going to be getting a royalty payment. I was told I was collecting the money I needed to pay off my house loan. When I went into the office to pick up my payment, I was told they’d decided they didn’t owe me anything. It felt like a setup; I felt like suing. I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t sue Jerry. I don’t think he even knew what was going on with the office, and I would never lay those bummers on him; I figured everybody else’s troubles were enough for him to deal with, he didn’t need mine. Bad move on my part. So my house was taken. I was given one day to move everything out, and I couldn’t even borrow a truck to move my stuff! The crew the agent had hired packed up all my tapes and belongings and took them to some warehouse and left them there in storage. I couldn’t get paid anything so I couldn’t get them our of storage. I tried to get those guys to get them out, but nobody did anything about them, no money to get them out -— it wasn’t worth retrieving. I got these weird-ass stories: “Well, we tried to save your house “Yeah, right, why didn’t you just pay me what you owed me at the time? There would have been no problem.” It took nine years to get anything. I finally explained and demonstrated to them how at the time they refused to give me the $20,000 payment they had promised, they had owed me about $50,000 since I had never been paid for recording the Warfield, Radio City, or for the video shows, even my personal expenses in making them (things like airfare and hotels), or any record royalties on old product. So that’s where that was at. That probably has a contributing effect on the karma factor. Ya think? You gotta maintain a sense of humor.
Well, in retrospect, in a weird way, you ended up playing this incredible role in what ended up becoming a passionate hobby and joy of countless numbers of thousands of people.